Vitamin E For Acne: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nicholas Jones, MD, FACS
Written by Ramona Sinha

Vitamin E is a common ingredient in many skincare products. This antioxidant is often applied topically (vitamin E oil) or ingested as a supplement. Advocates of vitamin E swear by its acne healing properties. But is it really effective?

There is limited research supporting vitamin E’s efficacy in treating acne. However, it can protect the skin from cellular damage and photoaging and improve its overall health. This article digs deeper to explore the efficacy of vitamin E for acne, ways to use it, and the potential risks associated with it. Scroll down to learn more.

Is Vitamin E Effective For Acne? What Research Says

Yes. Vitamin E oil is effective for acne, but it largely depends on how you use it. However, there islittle clinical proof regarding the topical efficacy of vitamin E oil on acne and acne scars. There are a few inconclusive studies, but they need further clinical evaluation:

  • A study found that topical application of vitamin E oil before benzoyl peroxide (a medication used for treating acne) could improve the medicine’s efficacy and reduce acne (1). However, further research is needed to prove the results.
  • Another study found that a combination of vitamins A and E prevented comedone (small bumps often found on the forehead and chin of those with acne) formation, thus preventing further growth of Propionibacterium acnes that cause acne (2).

Some research suggests that ingesting vitamin E supplements or increasing its dietary intake can help reduce acne.

  • A study found that low levels of vitamins A and E in blood plasma could aggravate acne (3).
  • Another study conducted on hairless mice found that both topical and oral vitamin E may help reduce UV-induced skin damage, inflammation, and pigmentation (4).
  • Theoral intake of a combination of lactoferrin, vitamin E, and zinc was found to reduce acne lesions within two weeks (5). However, further research is needed to draw a better conclusion on the benefits of vitamin E in acne management.

Vitamin E oil may work in combination with other ingredients and not just as a single treatment. Also, it is not clear if taking vitamin E supplements or using them topically works in a particular case. It largely depends on your skin type and how it reacts to vitamin E. Hence, before using vitamin E or taking supplements, it is essential to learn which way will be effective.

However, topical vitamin E can be used for anti-aging benefits. It is observed that the reactive oxygen species (free radicals) can alter the biosynthesis or production of collagen in the skin, speeding up skin aging (6). Vitamin E can work as a free radical scavenger and slow down the aging process.

There are many ways that you can add vitamin E to your skincare routine to reduce acne. You can do it through products, foods, or supplements. We recommend consulting a doctor before figuring out which method to use.

Ways To Use Vitamin E For Acne

1. Use Vitamin E oil

Vitamin E is also available in cream, lotion, and serum forms. Many people squeeze out the oil from vitamin E capsules for topical application. The oil has a thick consistency, making it a good choice for people with dry and flaky skin.

Apply this oil to your face while you sleep, as the skin heals itself during the night. You can apply the oil directly or mix it with your night cream. You can also buy products that have vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) as one of the ingredients. Such products are good for taking overall care of your skin.

2. Vitamin E Supplements

Vitamin E supplements are available in capsule or tablet forms. However, there is not enough evidence to determine the correct dosage of vitamin E for both topical and oral use (6).

Consult a dermatologist before taking vitamin E supplements. This is because you may not need to take additional supplements if you are getting enough vitamin E from your diet. The dermatologist may conduct a blood test to determine if you have a vitamin E deficiency.

Note: Vitamin E supplements may interact with drugs. Talk to your doctor if you are under medication for any other health issue.

3. Vitamin E Through Diet

Vitamin E is naturally found in many food. The richest sources of vitamin E are whole grains, spinach, nuts, sunflower oil, and olive oil (6).Consume foods like (7):

  • Nuts and seeds (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds),
  • Vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, and wheat germ oils)
  • Seafood
  • Green veggies and fruits such as spinach, broccoli, mango, and kiwi

Consult a doctor to find out the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E for you. The amount of vitamin E you need depends on your age. However, those above 14 years of age (men, women, and pregnant women) need roughly 15 mg of vitamin E daily. If you are lactating, you may require up to 19 mg of vitamin E daily (7).

Using vitamin E (oil, capsule, or supplements) for acne just because it is a widespread practice may also expose you to its side effects.

Vitamin E For Acne: Potential Risks

  • Topical vitamin E is safe for the skin unless you are allergic to it. If you are allergic, it may irritate your skin and worsen any existing condition. It may also cause contact dermatitis (8).
  • Some vitamin E oils contain certain types of preservatives and stabilizers (a few brands mention them) that may irritate the skin. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamin E oil. This means the same product from two different brands may have different concentrations and might react differently on your skin.
  • Vitamin E oil, creams, and serums may feel a bit heavy on oily skin. If the product’s formula is oil-based, it may clog your skin pores and aggravate acne. Therefore, check the ingredients list and the formulation carefully before buying vitamin E products and supplements for acne. Also, do a patch test and an allergy test to avoid skin irritation and reactions.
  • Excess serum vitamin E levels can increase the risk of hemorrhage or bleeding in those who take warfarin (anticoagulant medicine) (9).

Other than vitamin E, the dermatologist may suggest other OTC treatment methods for effective acne management.

Other Treatments To Try

  • Salicylic Acid: This beta-hydroxy acid (BHA)disrupt the cellular junctions to stimulate natural exfoliation and prevent come done or acne formation (10). It works best for mild acne (whiteheads and blackheads).
  • Alpha-Hydroxy Acids: AHAsexfoliate the skin to reduce come done formation (10).They minimize visible flaking, improve cell turnover, and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
  • Tea Tree Oil: It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that minimize acne-causing bacteria and reduce the severity of acne lesions (11).
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: It has antibacterial properties that reduce acnes and S. aureus to improve acne lesions. However, it may irritate the skin if not used in proper concentrations (10). Consult a doctor before using benzoyl peroxide.
  • Sulfur: It works as a keratolytic (exfoliating) agent and is often used for soothing acne and seborrheic dermatitis (10).
  • Retinoic Acid: This metabolite of vitamin A is also known as tretinoin and is often used for acne management. Using retinoic acid with glycolic acid (AHA) was found to improve acne scarring (12).

However, all skin types may not respond well to these medications. Consult a doctor to understand which ingredient may suit your skin in what concentration.

Take proper care before introducing your skin to a new ingredient. This is the best way to avoid any complications.

When To See A Doctor

Consult a doctor if:

  • You have severe acne.
  • You notice deep and large cysts.
  • Acne is not responding to treatment after 3-4 weeks.
  • You notice skin peeling, blemishes, and redness.

In A Nutshell

Vitamin E is a versatile antioxidant with innumerable skin benefits. However, its benefits for acne treatment remain inconclusive. You may try using vitamin E oil or products and see if it helps. Keep in mind that you need to be careful while using it. Any remedy you try takes time to show results. Wait for at least a month before changing your treatment. In case you do not see any results or if your skin reacts negatively to it, consult a dermatologist immediately.

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Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.
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